Take a deep breath. Breathe.
I’m trying to calm myself. I tell myself the same words over and over again, trying to brace myself for whatever happens next. You have to do this. You only have a few minutes. There are people who are counting on you. You don’t have much time.
I hear screams. Cries of terror. My hands are shaking, but I clench them. You can’t show them that you’re afraid. You have to be there for them. You have to give them hope. You have to comfort them. A part of me screams at me to run away, but I can’t. These people need me. I am their hero. I have to be their hero.
Before I can have time to doubt myself, I run into the burning building. I hold my breath as I run into the sea of flames, trying to locate any survivors. My eyes scan the floor to see if anyone is unconscious, to see if there are any bodies that are still breathing in the thick of the smoke. I will myself to focus on the flames and to try to calm them, to try and have the flames listen to me.
You can do this. You can control the flames. Breathe. So far, there is no one on the first floor. Maybe everyone who was on the first floor was able to escape once the building was set on fire. The problem is trying to get to the higher floors, where it’s more likely to collapse, or where the exits are blocked by the flames. Where people have no escape.
In front of me, the flames grow more intense, more violent. I shake my head. Don’t think about that. Think about the people who need you. Think about the people that need help. You don’t have much time. You have to hurry.
I run up the stairs, continuing my search. I repeat the same words to myself over and over again, reminding myself the reason why I am here, reminding myself what I have to do. Minutes go by, and I grow desperate. There is no one. Each floor I climb, I hear screams but I see no people, no bodies. I feel the heat, but I don’t see anyone burning. The only thing I see everywhere is flames that tell me that there is no escape, that there is nowhere I can turn to. Each floor I climb, I can feel the flames more intensely. They grow in size, and become hotter and hotter after each floor I climb. Despite the fact that I have the power to control the flames, I only begin to feel more afraid each time I look down the hall, into another room, while climbing another set of stairs. The emptiness of it all haunts me.
What if they’re all dead?
I shake my head. This is not the time to think about this. There are still survivors. I can still hear the screams, and each time I climb, they grow louder. The troubling thought is that I haven’t seen any sign of any person since I entered the building. That’s when I begin to wonder how long I’ve been inside. A part of me instantly starts to panic, and another part of me, tries to calm myself down.
You can’t waste any more time. You are running out of time. There are people who need you. What if you’ve come too late? What if you can’t save anyone? What if you fail? What if the world finally realizes that you’re a failure? What if these people realize that you are not their hero, that you can’t save anyone?
My hands begin to shake, and I try to clench them to calm myself down. It isn’t until I feel a painful sensation in my fingers that I realize that they are burned. Flames dance at my fingertips, singing them, but the rest of my hand feels raw. It hurts to clench my hands, but I can still move my arms, my elbows, and my wrists with ease and without pain. Some part of me is confused, but then realizes that I have been in the building for too long, that I’ve lost track of time. I need to hurry.
I climb up the stairs with a new determination, trying to drown my fears, keeping the dark thoughts at the back of my mind. However, with each step I take, I feel the ache in my bones. I feel the tiredness of searching through empty rooms filled with nothing but flames. I hear the doubts that creep into the back of my mind. You are too slow. You can’t do anything. You can’t turn back from this. Once this is all over, you can’t escape. And then the constant thought that haunts me. What if you’re too late? What if all that you’ve done was for nothing? What if everything you did still wasn’t enough?
Something catches my eye as I scan my eyes on the thirteenth floor. A thought comes to me. Have you really reached the thirteenth floor? Have you been here for that long?
It’s a body, on the ground near the window. Flames surround it, as if it mourns the dead itself. It seems that the person made an attempt to reach the window to escape while the building was on fire, and possibly lost consciousness before they could do anything. As I approach it, I begin to realize that the body is completely burned, and that the person is already dead. I stop in my tracks a few feet in front of the corpse, and it takes me a few seconds to realize that I can barely breathe.
I force myself to calm down, to take another breath. I take a deep breath, only to cough on the smoke in the building. I don’t feel anything but a burning sensation in my throat, as if my lungs are on fire. I lean against the wall, trying to calm myself down until I can breathe again.
I try to move my hands to push myself off the wall, and realize I can’t feel them. I look down at my hands and realize that my hands are completely burned, smelling of burning flesh. Once again I hear a scream, and remember that there is still someone who needs me. Someone who needs saving. Someone who reminds me of my duty.
I try to move my legs, but I fall onto the ground. I try to force myself to get up, but each time I move, it feels as if someone had replaced my bones with burning coal. I try to scream, but I can’t. My lungs feel as if they’re burning, as if they’re on fire. It feels as if my entire being is being set aflame, and I can’t escape from it.
You’ve failed. You can’t save anyone. All these people who were waiting for you are dead. You’ve failed them. You’re not their hero. You are nothing but a false hope for them. You can’t do anything for them.
I hear the screams get louder, but I realize that they’re not screams of terror. They are screams of doubt, screams that tell me that I am worthless, that no matter what I do I can’t do anything, that I can’t save anyone. That I am named a hero for nothing. That I am a coward. The screams are the voices in my head, laughing at my worthlessness, at my downfall. They are laughing at me as they watch me burn.
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Wow great story! Very intense, but you expressed the character's determination and doubt very well with great language. Good job!
This is a wonderful story! My favorite part: "That I am named a hero for nothing. That I am a coward. The screams are the voices in my head, laughing at my worthlessness, at my downfall. They are laughing at me as they watch me burn." So so so deep! Nicely done;) Mind checking out my new story? Thanks.
Thank you so much for reading it! Of course I'll read your story! >:DDD
That's pretty dark :) I didn't expect an ending like this in a superhero prompt. It is an intense story, well told, that revolves around the concept of Self-Doubt - in a way humanizing Superheroes, to the extent of rendering them mortal. Therefore the sentence "Before I can have time to doubt myself...." sounds odd in that context. Keep writing more :)
Thank you so much for reading it!! :))